Cam Newton is an overall number 1 pick, and he now can add quarterback of a playoff team to his resume’. Newton is already being credited for the Panthers’ 2013 success where they finished 12-4. In this same season, Newton is credited for his increase in productivity compared to the year before. This is how it goes in football. QBs get all the chicks but also lose the chicks when the team play suffers.
When the Panthers were disappointing the previous years, all you heard were stories about his immaturity and how he doesn’t take the game seriously. Fast forward one incredible defensive season later, Cam is now the next Tom Brady and about to ring off a series of Super Bowl wins. The narrative changes with team very quickly.
Superstar? The numbers say average.
I personally found that the turnaround had more to do with the Panther’s incredible defense. Per Football Outsiders, the Panthers defense ranked 3rd in DVOA. DVOA, in this instance, measures just how good a defense is on a per play basis. The Panthers ranked 3rd allowing -18.0% less value per play than the average team. The Seahawks were number one with a legendary DVOA of -30.0%. While the Panthers weren’t the Seahawks, they were pretty damn good. The Panthers were the number 1 overall pass defense on DVOA, even better than the vaunted Seahawks. When we are talking about a clear top 3 defense, you are going to win games.
Here are the real superstars of the Panthers.
Back to Cam Newton. How much of a help was he in obtaining this 12-4 turnaround? And how does he stack up against others? Lets have a look shall we.
Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement
DYAR tells us exactly that. How many yards, adjusted for defense, is a QB worth over a league average replacement. Newton places a very pedestrian 17th with a DYAR of 421. It definitely speaks well that he is an above average player, but at a 17 ranking, he seems to be only that, slightly above average. Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer are just ahead of Newton in these rankings. Hardly superstar status (although Cincy feels the need to pay Dalton like he is one).
To say Dalton didn’t deserve his contract is an understatement.
Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average
DVOA represents a per play measurement of how good a QB is over an average QB in the same situation. Newton actually falls back a little bit to a 19 ranking with a small 1.7% more value than an average player. Again, above average but ever so slightly. These rankings put Newton behind Josh McCown and in a league with Dalton, Palmer, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. If we are giving Cam credit, the credit seems to be vastly overstated.
Cam needs to hone his passing skills.
Having seen Cam’s passing numbers, he honestly looks like a very league average QB. However, he does do some extras to bump up his passing value and overall value (which we will get to). He had a very strong 24TDs to only 13 INTs. That’s a positive ratio that is more indicative of a top 10 QB. He needs to throw more TDs, but as long as his INTs are down, it’s a major plus.
At this point, Newton probably sits as the 15th best passer in the league. I would place Andy Dalton ahead of him, but Palmer and Fitzpatrick don’t quite bring his low INT rate skill. C+ passing grade.
Now here is where Cam shines a little bit more. Cam has a DYAR of 102 for a rank of 5th. No matter how you slice it, picking up extra yards on the ground is a valuable skill and he excels at it. His DVOA falls to 24th, however, that is a case of him taking off too much. He can get the yards, but he needs to reel it back in from time to time and make sure each play is getting maximum value. Newton had 6 TDs running it, which is a huge plus. He also had 2 fumbles, but that is to be expected. Still a nice ratio of scoring to turnovers.
Newton is a good runner. I would give his rushing a B+.
So Where Does He Sit?
Cam Newton is no superstar, and he had minimal to do with the Panthers turnaround. He shouldn’t receive the praise and credit, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t bring value. Overall, I would say Cam Newton is somewhere between the 12th and 16th best QB in the league. He is good but only slightly good. You see a lot of positives in his game and you hope that he continues to grow.
But please, hold the superstar praise for when he actually deserves it.